Color, 2014, 119m.
Nucleus (DVD) (US R0 PAL)
It took a little over two years but after the giddily entertaining third volume in the Grindhouse Trailer Classics series, here's the fourth and wildest one yet from Nucleus Films. This time the allure is an unusually high number of rare trailers, many never seen on home video at all, in addition to a few beloved favorites unseen before in decent transfers.
The festivities kick off on a high note with the infamous midget crime film Little Cigars, one of those titles you really have to see to believe; it's out there as an MGM on-demand DVD for those who think it might all be a practical joke. The lurid Women for Sale boasts nonstop narration urging married men and fathers to come see this unflinching look at how the fairer sex is subject to abductions and topless whipping sessions for debauched businessmen, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. The '80s slasher favorite Curtains (finally getting a much-anticipated Blu-ray release soon) sported one of the most memorable, evocative trailers of the decade, and it's nice to see it here in good shape. Then there's the scarce trailer for AIP's drive-in staple Dirty O'Neil, a bizarre half-comic look at a cop's sex life on the beat; currently it's only viewable via instant streaming video, which is a shame but better than nothing. One of the undisputed highlights of the disc is Willie Dynamite, a rowdy, hilarious come-on that manages to pack every single blaxploitation element into a couple of eye-popping minutes.
'70s horror had to rear its head, too, and you get it with The Deathmaster, Robert Quarry's big starring vehicle outside the Count Yorga series. The first of two Gloria Grahame films comes next with Mama's Dirty Girls, one of the many T&A-based '70s crime films that packed drive-ins for years. The Oscar winner wasn't in the best career shape at the time (with the great Blood and Lace being the exception) due to very sordid personal reasons, but she still held her own regardless of the job. It's kung fu time next with The Hammer of God, a reissue title for The Chinese Boxer, which shamelessly cribs music from a certain famous movie spy series. Swingin' Models is a sexploitation import from Germany courtesy of Hemisphere and starring Ingrid Steeger, promising "the story of the naked struggle for success and fame;" has anyone actually seen this?
A strong candidate for the most misleading ad campaign of all time can be found with Strange Shadows in an Empty Room, an attempt by AIP to pass off the Italian cop film Blazing Magnum as a horror film about a terrorized blind girl (played by Tisa Farrow). Stars Stuart Whitman, John Saxon, and Martin Landau are almost totally sidelined here, and it's amusing to imagine how audiences reacted when they realized they'd been duped. Drive-in vet Arthur Marks gets his due here with The Roommates, which still remains elusive on home video despite the presence of Roberta Collins, Marki Bey and Pat Woodell; the appetizer seen here is more than enough to make you eager for a legit DVD release. Much kinkier is Too Hot to Handle, one of a trio of twisted sex/crime outings for Cheri "Ginger" Caffaro, while more typical '70s fare can be found with The Hitchhikers (an obscure Charles Manson cash-in with Misty Rowe) and one of Roger Corman's Filipino-shot girl romps, Fly Me.
Though it hasn't been included on any of its DVD releases, the trailer for Al Adamson's Blood of Dracula's Castle finally turns up here and is every bit as delirious as you might imagine, while Russ Meyer star Erica Gavin pops up for Erika's Hot Summer, a cheap softcore flick cobbled together after she (briefly) became famous. The kind of ghoulish but fascinating '78 doc Catastrophe comes next (complete with William Conrad narration), followed by the Rosalba Neri sexy horror favorite The Devil's Wedding Night (the usual U.S. trailer). The mob drama Crazy Joe is a mostly forgotten follow-up for Peter Boyle to his breakthrough film with a similar title, complete with a great supporting cast including Fred Williamson, Rip Torn, and Paula Prentiss. How about some Paul Naschy? Yep, there's Frankenstein's Bloody Terror, while Born to Kill is a trashy retitling of Monte Hellman's Cockfighter with Warren Oates. Stella Stevens headlines the Crown International glitter opus Las Vegas Lady (which has appeared on a few video collections minus its trailer), but considerably rarer and more fascinating is Poor Albert and Little Annie, the original release preview for a little horror sickie later famously retitled I Dismember Mama. If that's enough to make you think the whole world's going to hell, well, turns out it is according to The Late Great Planet Earth, one of a handful of alarmist docs from the late '70s/early '80s (later outdone by the more famous The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, both narrated by Orson Welles).
A throwback to the days when swinging was a hot pop culture topic, All the Loving Couples is a familiar staple from Something Weird (with its trailer prominently featured on a Twisted Sex volume) but presented here in better condition. That's nothing compared to the next SW favorite, The Sinful Dwarf, whose trailer alone is a mind-melting masterpiece for the ages. (Watch it back to back with the Little Cigars one for maximum impact.) Weirdly out of circulation worldwide at the moment, Mark of the Devil Part II is another sleazy slice of witch-burning madness with a great trailer (better than the actual movie) seen on a handful of earlier trailer comps in rougher shape. Some animal mayhem charges up next with the double whammy of Dogs, currently out on Blu-ray and DVD, and the insane Mexican favorite Night of a Thousand Cats, whose very scarce trailer is finally seen here in good quality (and has never appeared on any of its home video releases).
Whew! There's still more to come with the '77 high school romp Cheering Section, the very hard-to-see biker flick Hell's Chosen Few, and the Michael Pataki-directed shocker Mansion of the Doomed, all seemingly making their trailer compilation debuts here. More familiar is the Canadian thriller The Pyx, but that's followed by perhaps the greatest unseen gem in the entire set: the American trailer for The Sweet Body of Deborah, a pivotal early giallo with Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel. This great little film has never been issued on American video in any format, weirdly enough, but at least it's on PAL DVD; however, this trailer has been annoyingly hard to find for decades and is worth the retail price alone. (You can watch the Italian one here.) It's blaxploitation time again with Trouble Man, then more martial arts '70s action with The Sacred Knives of Vengeance and a return to Crown with the early John Savage starrer The Sister-in-Law. Some car racing tears along next with Smash-Up Alley, aka 43 - The Petty Story, a NASCAR biopic with Darren McGavin, then back to Italy for the early (and kind of dull) giallo A Black Veil for Lisa and a great, rarely seen trailer for the Dario Argento-penned spaghetti western The Five Man Army.
The gritty rape-revenge '70s film Nightmare Honeymoon has gotten some notice recently thanks to a much-needed home video premiere from Warner Archive, and the trailer should be enough to spur along a few new customers, too. Then the fantastic, extremely creepy trailer for The Severed Arm (also rarely seen outside theaters) finally appears here in its entirety, a fine representation of a very underrated '70s shocker. We pretty much stay stuck in that decade for the rest of the disc thanks to the super-cheap MGM blaxploitation crime pic Sweet Jesus, Preacherman, the insanely hard-to-find Ray Milland chiller Terror in the Wax Museum, the fun martial arts/blaxploitation hybrid Bamboo Gods and Iron Men, the blaxploitation crime staple The Hit Man, and the beloved canine crook favorite The Daring Dobermans. If things seem a light on the women-in-prison front, check out the Jonathan Demme-penned The Hot Box, while the lascivious title of Inside Amy disguises a not-bad grindhouse thriller better known as Swingers Massacre. The Angela Mao trailer for Lady Kung Fu is a retitling for the popular Hapkido, while Dirty Dan's Women tries to put a sexy gloss on the surprisingly edgy Mickey Dolenz thriller, The Night of the Strangler. Better known is They're Coming to Get You, Sam Sherman's vague American campaign for the outstanding Sergio Martino giallo All the Colors of the Dark, while Delinquent Schoolgirls is one of numerous titles for an outrageously tasteless little sickie you just have to see to believe. No synopsis could really do this one justice. Incoming Freshmen is an early-ish Cannon film currently out only in a crummy bootleg DVD edition, so this trailer makes it even sadder there isn't a quality video release anywhere to date. Finally the set rounds out oddly enough with The Man with Bogart's Face, a 1980 vehicle for Bogie impersonator Robert Sacchi (from The French Sex Murders) with a surreal supporting cast including Franco Nero, Herbert Lom, and Sybil Danning. The disc rounds out with an extensive poster gallery for films featured on the DVD and trailers for the label's two volumes in its great Video Nasties series. It's also worth noting that the program features some amazing vintage theatrical snipes... and the first one is a real killer.
Reviewed on May 4, 2014.